New UO report tracks seven years of sustainability progress

Seven years after its inception, the UO Office of Sustainability has produced a progress report detailing the growth and evolution of its environmental improvement projects on campus.

The office started small, but, as director Steve Mital said, it now works with “housing, athletics, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, the bookstore, the rec center, product design and OIMB (Oregon Institute of Marine Biology) just to name a few.”

The report, titled “Sowing Change,” breaks up the Office of Sustainability’s mission statement into five areas: leadership, policy development, projects and programs, monitoring and outreach. The report covers each of these sections in depth.

Under each of these sections are the numerous projects that the Office of Sustainability put into action including: the climate action plan, student sustainability fund, green office program and many others that were created over the last seven years.

The office also looked to encourage and bolster environmentally friendly students. It gave out student sustainability leadership awards to one student per year who “worked to promote sustainability on and off campus,” according to the report. Last year’s recipient, Laughton Elliott-DeAngelis, led beach and river cleanups for the UO Outdoor Program and started “BicyCLEAN,” a project that removed three cubic yards of trash from Eugene’s outdoor bike trails.

The Office of Sustainability’s work also helped students in another way, with the creation of the Outdoor Program’s bike barn, which fosters affordable and green transportation. The grants used for this project made the bike barn able to offer do-it-yourself workshops and a wide array of tools for students who need to tune up their bicycles.  

The report also goes over some of the office’s more challenging initiatives, and Mital does see an “elephant in the living room” in air travel. “As we become more and more globally engaged, travel and emissions rise,” Mital said.

Still, both Mital and the report are optimistic on the future of sustainability at the UO. One of the final sections of the report, simply titled “What’s Next?” looks over future goals for the office and the entire UO.

The office plans to create additional funds for green projects, tap into social media to spread awareness and fine tune the climate action plan. Mital thinks that support for sustainability will only grow on campus.

“It’s great that so many UO faculty members are working on big social and environmental problems,” he said, adding,, “Our peers see the UO as a leader.”

—By Nathan Stevens, Public Affairs Communications intern